People walk past the closed iconic brasserie Les Deux Magots

LUDOVIC MARIN | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — The euro zone economy contracted in the first quarter of 2021, as countries implemented new lockdowns and restrictions amid a third wave of coronavirus infections.

Gross domestic product (GDP) in the region fell by 0.6% quarter-on-quarter, according to preliminary data released by Europe’s statistics office Eurostat.

Most of the region’s largest economies — Germany, Italy and Spain — all saw a decline in activity during the first three months of the year.

French surprise

France was the exception, with Europe’s second-largest economy posting better-than-expected growth of 0.4% in the first quarter. Though the French economy remains below its pre-Covid levels, the growth numbers will bring some reassurance going into the second quarter.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced earlier this week an easing of measures going forward, with cafes, bars and restaurants able to offer service outdoors from May 19 — which could help the economic recovery.

Contractions elsewhere

However, in Germany, the economy contracted 1.7% over the same period. It’s worse than the 1.5% decline that analysts were expecting, according to data from Reuters.

The nation has been severely hit by the third wave and different approaches among its various regions have further complicated its fight against the pandemic.

In Italy, the latest GDP numbers showed a contraction of 0.4% for the quarter, slightly better than expectations. The Spanish economy also shrunk over the same period, 0.5%.

Looking ahead, however, economists are confident about 2021 for the euro zone. Countries in the region are due to start receiving EU-wide Covid support funds in the second half of the year, and the vaccination campaign has accelerated significantly since the start of 2021.

The European Union expects to have 70% of the adult population vaccinated this summer and tourism-reliant countries are hoping that a larger number of vaccinated people will allow them to have a more successful summer season this year.

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